Cost-of-living crisis creating risk to road safety, warns Halfords boss
The boss of Halfords has warned that the cost-of-living crisis is creating “a risk to road safety” as drivers buy older cars and struggle with maintenance costs.
The warning came as the motoring and cycling retailer reported higher sales over the past 20 weeks as it was boosted by its expanding car repairs business.
The retail group told shareholders on Wednesday that total revenues grew by 9.2% over the 20 weeks to August 19, compared with the same period last year.
It added that sales were over 30% higher than the same period last year, buoyed by a strong performance in the firm’s autocentres business.
In December last year, Halfords grew its autocentres operation with a £62 million takeover of Axle Group, owner of the National tyre servicing brand.
Bosses said on Wednesday its latest performance has been “in line” with expectations and held firm on targets of an underlying pre-tax profit of between £65 million and £75 million for the current financial year.
It also highlighted “good progress” against its cost saving targets and efforts to mitigate inflation.
Graham Stapleton, chief executive officer of Halfords, said: “We are working extremely hard to help our customers with the cost-of-living crisis and have dropped prices across nearly 2,000 motoring essentials, ensuring that products remain accessible and affordable for all.
“Our Motoring Loyalty Club is also proving to be extremely popular and has already attracted over half a million members since its launch in March, with benefits including MOT discounts and a free 10-point car health-check, putting almost £14 million of savings directly back into members’ pockets.
“Over 70% of our sales now come from motoring products and services, and the fact that this area of spend tends to be more needs-based rather than discretionary is leading to a very resilient group performance, despite the wider macroeconomic uncertainty.”
But Mr Stapleton warned that the increased pressure on household budgets, amid rising energy bills, could have a knock-on effect for road safety.
“Based on what we’re seeing in our garages and taking into account continuing issues with the supply of new cars, we believe the average age of cars will pass the nine-year mark very soon and could even creep above 10 years before the cost-of-living crisis eases,” Mr Stapleton said.
“This presents a real challenge for the Secretary of State for Transport.
“Vehicle reliability has improved in recent years but there is no getting away from the fact that older cars are more likely to develop faults, are more costly to maintain, and are more polluting.
“This represents a risk to road safety, yet another squeeze on motorists’ wallets, and a threat to the UK’s emissions reduction goals.”